Leveling the Playing Field: Reintroducing U.S. Theater-Range Missiles in a Post-INF World
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
May 21, 2019
Now that the United States has suspended its participation in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the time has come to explore seriously the case for deploying ground-launched theater-range missiles.

In this study, the authors explore the potential strategic and operational contribution of ground-launched theater-range missiles to U.S. defense strategy. They also critically evaluate the arguments that have been put forward against fielding such missiles. Finally, they estimate the cost of a variety of near- and mid-term options to field theater-range missiles.

The study makes a cost-informed argument that, although not a silver bullet, deploying theater-range missiles would allow the United States to reclaim strategic options, regain military advantages, and strengthen the possibility of deterring great power conflict.

What this report has sketched out should be the start of a conversation about the strategic and operational implications of fielding a land-based theater-range missile force. Should Washington exercise the freedom to deploy missiles following the treaty’s abrogation, many specific and difficult tasks—ranging from high politics to the mundane—would await policy-makers. Such issues as force design, doctrine, tactics, allied consultations, and Congressional support will need to be tackled.

It behooves policymakers to think through these challenges now as the post-INF era draws near.

Full text
56 PDF pages


Official reports See all